Monday, November 27, 2006

Who is Judge Roy Bean?

I was road-trippin' with my family over thanksgiving, and for adventure we decided to duck into South Haven, MI which is a B-level vacation town. We stopped at a restaurant named Clementine's that had a drink named "The Judge Roy Bean". I wasn't particularly in a drinking mood, but being a brethren by namesake I asked the waitress who Judge Roy Bean was. She didn't know and I failed to inspire her to find out, but that's what the internet is for. Here's a synopsis
Roy headed to Vinegaroon to become a saloonkeeper, serving railroad workers whiskey from a tent. As his own best customer, he was often drunk and disorderly.

Roy tended bar in Sam's saloon for several years while smuggling guns from Mexico through the Union blockade during the Civil War. Afterward, he married a Mexican teenager and settled in San Antonio, where throughout the 1870s, he supported 5 children by peddling stolen firewood and selling watered-down milk.

One of Bean's most outrageous rulings occurred when an Irishman was accused of killing a Chinese worker. Friends of the accused threatened to destroy the Jersey Lilly if he was found guilty. Court in session, Bean browsed through his law book, turning page after page, searching for another legal precedent. Finally, rapping his pistol on the bar, he proclaimed, "Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there's nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed."

Roy spent most of his days sitting on the porch of his saloon, with rifle handy. In his spare time, he served customers. His favorites were railroad passengers, desperate for something to drink while the train took on water. Bean served them quickly, then lingered before giving them their change. When the train's warning whistle blew, customers swore and demanded their change. Roy then fined them the exact amount and sent them cursing back to their railroad cars.

In 1898, prizefighting had become illegal in most Western states, as it was in Mexico, and promoters could find nowhere to hold the world championship title bout between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher. On February 22, the Jersey Lilly was packed with 200 fight fans who, after a few rounds of drinks, followed Roy to a bridge he built to a sand bar in the Rio Grande River. While Texas Rangers watched the makeshift ring helplessly from atop the bluff, Fitzsimmons decked Maher in only 95 seconds. After returning to the saloon for more drinks...
Read the whole summary, it's fascinating. A real piece of American history; still it leaves one wondering...why South Haven? to be continued...


Blogger PastorNancy said...

Far more scurrilous than I expected.


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